The Autumnlands, Vol. 2: Woodland Creatures (The Autumnlands #2) by Kurt Busiek

The Autumnlands, Vol. 2: Woodland Creatures (The Autumnlands #2) by Kurt Busiek

autumnlands2The curious fantasy/science fiction graphic novel series The Autumnlands continues in volume two: Woodland Creatures.

In the last book, the chosen one, “Learoyd”, a violent and profanity-laden human from the future or, perhaps, the distant past, was summoned by a group of magic-wielding, sentient animals to save their world from the disappearance of magic.

But the effort of summoning Learoyd was so great, that it caused one of their sky-roving cities to crash to the earth. On the earth, there were tribes of violent and power-hungry creatures waiting for their chance to plunder the riches of the sky.

That entry ended with an epic explosion and fight with a bison tribe.

In this book, Learoyd and Dusty, a magic-wielding pit bull who recently lost his father, venture into the wilds of earth to discover who is poisoning the animals and continue searching for a way to bring back the magic that continues to disappear from the world.

Dusty, though young, is no dummy and Learoyd isn’t quite what the animals were hoping he would be.

The great champion of legend- the hero we’d thought him to be- would have sallied forth just because it was the right thing to do. But this champion… I was learning that legends were a poor guide. He had reasons for all he did. His own reasons. Whether I understood or not…”

This graphic novel is surprising in its treatment of the themes of power, magic and betrayal. I like how the animals tell the story about how everything that happens one way, but the reality of what happens seems to be something else.

It is an interesting examination of the power of storytelling and the construction of legends. What is truth? How much is magic simply technology that isn’t understood yet?

“This f-ing world. I thought it was a dream, at first. It comes off goofy, all badgers and warthogs in fancy robes and sh*t. Like a kids’ story. But there’s just as much sh*t here as there is anywhere, isn’t there?”

I didn’t particularly like how much Learoyd uses profanity, but it certainly gives him character.

This series is for adults. It contains adult themes, nudity, profanity and violence. And yet, I think it is worth the reading.

It asks big questions. It uses fantasy to explore strange worlds and the human condition. Recommended.

Thanks for reading!

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Senlin Ascends (The Books of Babel, #1) by Josiah Bancroft

Senlin Ascends (The Books of Babel, #1)  by Josiah Bancroft

senlinSenlin Ascends is a steampunk adventure novel wherein our hero, Thomas Senlin, ventures into the mythical and massive Tower of Babel to reunite with his new wife and love of his life, Marya.

Sounds simple? It’s not.

Each ring of the tower is a different country with tyrannical and ruthless rulers who run their circle of influence with an iron fist. And as Senlin ascends, the technology becomes more and more advanced to the point where, even to an educated man like Senlin, it looks like magic.

“There is a lot of debate over how many levels there are. Some scholars say there are fifty-two, others say as many as sixty. It’s impossible to judge from the ground.” pg 4

And their married life had started out so well…

“Their honeymoon was ruined, that much seemed certain. They would have to fabricate some fable of luxury to tell their friends, and he would, of course, make it all up to her with a quiet weekend in a pastoral cottage, but for the rest of their marriage she would remember what a terrible trial their honeymoon had been.” pg 16

Senlin is no fool in love though. He’s introverted, introspective and thoughtful. His wife, Marya, is younger and impulsive. Together, they make a great team. If only he could figure out which direction she went.

The character of Senlin is one of the delights of this fantasy novel. He’s prickly and doesn’t seem lovable right off the bat. But as you get to know him, you realize, he’s one-of-a-kind.

“The subtext was obvious: Love, pure and eternal, reigned supreme. Senlin did not believe in that sort of love: sudden and selfish and insatiable. … He believed true love was more like an education: It was deep and subtle and never complete.” pg 59

Senlin is still hopeful he’ll find his wife until he discovers what the tower really is and what it does to the unknowing who venture within its walls.

“I am upset because we have pooled out human genius into the building of an elaborate Tower and have filled it up with the same tyrants that have plagued our race since we crawled from the sea. Why does our innovation never extend to our conscience?” pg 142.

Why indeed.

Highly recommended for fans of fantasy and adventure fiction. Senlin Ascends is a masterful debut novel and start of a unique series.

Thanks for reading!

The Diviners (The Diviners, #1) by Libba Bray

The Diviners (The Diviners, #1) by Libba Bray
divinersThe Diviners is a surprisingly complex young adult novel about a returned evil, supernatural powers, secrets and mystery. It is set during the Prohibition Era in New York.

“A faint glow emanates from that dark, foul-smelling earthen tomb. Yes, something moves again in the shadows. A harbinger of much greater evil to come.” pg 10, ebook.

Evie, the heroine of our tale, has the ability to read people, emotions and past events from objects. She is a diviner, a snappy dresser and one of the most delightful characters I’ve read about this year. And how!

After an unfortunate reading of an object from one of the most powerful families in her hometown, Evie is sent to be with her uncle Will in New York. He runs a museum of the occult and supernatural. Jericho, his ward, lives in the museum with Evie’s uncle. Jericho has a, you guessed it, secret past.

“Last but not least, here is the place where we spend most of our time: the library.” Jericho opened a set of mahogany pocket doors, and Evie let out a whistle. She’d never seen such a room. It was as if it had been transported here from some spooky fairy-tale castle.”pg 34, ebook.

Evie’s best friend, Mabel, has a major crush on Jericho. Evie attempts to play matchmaker, help her uncle’s museum succeed and help solve the occult-related murders that are occurring all over New York City.

Meanwhile, Memphis is a numbers runner for the top man in Harlem. He has a secret past as well and a nightmare that haunts him each night.

Theta, a showgirl for the Ziegfeld follies, is running away from her dark past and towards the bright lights of New York. Her roommate has, gasp, secrets too.

As the characters’ lives begin to intertwine, they race to stop a killer and, potentially, the end of the world.

Highly recommended for fans of young adult fantasy. The Diviners is a magical trip through the past and a world where ghosts and supernatural powers are real.

Thanks for reading!

Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix

horrorstorAmy has a cash-flow problem and a desire to transfer to a different Ikea-like furniture store. If she can just stay on the boss’ good side for a few more days, she’ll be out of here.

So she was on her best behavior while her transfer request made its way through the system. She arrived on time each day. She smiled at customers and didn’t blink at last-minute schedule changes. … She fought her natural tendency to talk back. And, most important, she steered clear of Basil, determined to stay off his radar.” pg 17, ebook.

But the store has been under performing and, each morning, things are misplaced, wrecked or smeared with foul-smelling gunk. Someone has been in the store and Basil, the manager, is going to figure out what’s going on.

“I’ve asked you here because I need your help. I have an extra job for tonight. A side project. And I need you to keep quiet about it.”pg 27, ebook.

He’ll make sure Amy’s transfer papers go through if she stays overnight with Basil and a few of her co-workers. What could possibly go wrong?

Horrorstör is elevated from a typical horror novel because of its setting, which is really quite clever, and the way Grady Hendrix, the author, weaves the store manual into the narrative.

The haunting itself is spooky enough to give you chills, but doesn’t really cross the line into nightmare territory. At least, it didn’t for me.

“Churches are built where saints were martyred. A bridge requires a child in its foundations if it is to hold. All great works must begin with a sacrifice.” pg 96, ebook.

Amy is a strong female protagonist. She fights for what she wants, her coworkers and her sanity in this story. I liked how her character develops from entitled to vengeful.

Basil, Ruth Ann and Amy’s other coworkers are well-written too. As I read, I could imagine this cast of characters actually working at a store. There’s the tightly-strung manager with a heart of gold, the maternal push-over figure who may be tougher than she looks, and more.

Recommended for readers who enjoy some thrills and furniture-related chills. If you’re into Ikea, you may never look at your home furnishings the same way again.

Thanks for reading!

I Hate Fairyland, Vol. 3: Good Girl (I Hate Fairyland #3) by Skottie Young

I Hate Fairyland, Vol. 3: Good Girl (I Hate Fairyland #3) by Skottie Young

fairylandSkottie Young’s gorgeously-drawn and cleverly-written comic series I Hate Fairyland continues in Volume 3: Good Girl.

Gertie is still desperately trying to get home and kill as many cute and fuzzy things as possible while she does so.

But first, she wants to meet her favorite marauding hero, Gwag, a hard-core barbarian at Dungeon Festexpocon!

“This line is ridiculous. Why in the world would anyone want to spend all their time, energy, and money to attend Dungeon Festexpocon just to wait in lines the whole time?” “Says the girl about to stand in that line.”

Gert is so relatable. She’s the unfiltered impulses that run through your mind. Difference is, we quash those ideas and she lives them.

“Lesson one: the lifeblood of any good quest is alcohol!” True.

After some hijinks, Gert does some soul searching and decides she has to change her ways… again. You’d think that premise would get old after awhile, but Young manages to keep it fresh and his readers guessing.

As I mentioned earlier, the art continues to be a delight. No one does adorable, gore-covered critters and fantasy scenes quite like Young.

Added bonus, everybody’s favorite long-suffering guide through Fairyland, Larry, gets his own backstory in this book.

“Sorry, I must have dozed off. What were you talking about?” “I was talking about how terrible your life would be if you never met me.” “Yeah, you’re probably right.”

Highly recommended for graphic novel fans. Reminder, this series is for adults only. Don’t be fooled by the pastels. It can be crass, violent, gross, or a mix of all three of those things. It also has plenty of heart.

Thanks for reading!

 

The Atrocities by Jeremy C. Shipp

The Atrocities by Jeremy C. Shipp

atrocities“You see, Ms. Valdez, we require a governess with very specific qualifications. And this goes beyond a mastery of math and science and linguistics.”

Ms. Danna Valdez is summoned to a gothic mansion filled with grotesque artwork to tutor a girl who has died.

But no one told her about the special circumstances of her pupil before she arrived.

“Isabella isn’t coping well with this new phase of her existence. A few months ago, she started breaking things. At first it was only a lamp or a vase every few weeks, but things are… escalating.” pg 29

Within the mansion lives Mr. Evers, an artist and the creator of many of the grotesques, and his wife, Mrs. Evers, a cook named Robin and a gardener/handyman named Raul.

The emotionally-charged atmosphere of the place gives Danna nightmares as soon as she arrives. And something seems to be a little off…

The premise of this story was very exciting, but I didn’t enjoy its execution or ending.

The grotesque artwork seemed to hold more meaning than I was able to glean from it.

“The parishioners would stop and reflect on each Atrocity. And what would they see? Not a hideous statue. They would look beyond the violence and suffering to the metaphysical core of the image. They would see a manifestation of God’s power.” pg 13

The artwork is creepy, disturbing and sets the scene. But it didn’t make the story.

“Each canvas houses an emaciated figure draped in tattered strips of gossamer. Wings made of human fingers spread out from their backs, and their ashen skin stretches tight over their bones like shrinkwrap.” pg 16

Recommended for readers who prefer complex imagery over plot development.

Thanks for reading!

Here’s some other horror stories I have reviewed:

The Murders of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson

Hyde by Daniel Levine

All Darling Children by Katrina Monroe

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

bring up the bodiesHilary Mantel’s brilliant and Man Booker Prize-winning books about Thomas Cromwell continue with Bring Up the Bodies.

Cromwell is the right-hand man of Henry the VIII. His masterful manipulation of people and circumstances to make the world as Henry wants it has brought Cromwell wealth and power.

Getting Anne Boleyn on the throne was a struggle. Now he has to get her off of it without losing his own head in the process.

Mantel doesn’t just tell history, she makes it come alive.

In one scene I can’t get out of my head: Henry has a temper tantrum because of the Spanish ambassador’s continued disrespect towards his new wife, Anne, and the repeated requests from the Spanish crown for money owed. The king blows his top at Cromwell and screams in his face.

He says he believes Cromwell has always manipulated him and laughed at him. But he is king and he will not be steered.

And, even though I knew the history, I thought for a moment Cromwell was going to be taken to the Tower in that instant.

Instead, he quietly apologizes to the king and dismisses himself, then goes to a different room to take a drink. With shaking hands, Cromwell spills a drop of the wine on himself and sits there, contemplating the small stain on his shirt.

And I said to myself, “Mantel is a genius.”

In that passage, it was as if I was in that room, living the moment. She makes you forget you’re reading a book. It’s so immersive. It’s almost magical.

Cromwell’s efforts to collect evidence against Queen Anne fills much of this book. As he tightens his net around her, you can almost feel it tighten around yourself.

Cromwell jokes with his sworn men to ease some of the tension, but it is always there, buzzing beneath the surface.

Highly recommended for historical fiction readers. Bring Up the Bodies is one of the best books I’ve read this year.

To see my review of Mantel’s Wolf Hall, click here.

If you enjoyed Wolf Hall or Bring Up The Bodies, you may also enjoy Elizabeth I by Margaret George.

Thanks for reading!